James "Jimmy" Dorsey (29 February 1904, Shenandoah, Penn. – 12 June 1957, New York City) was an American jazz clarinetist, saxophonist, composer and big band leader.
Dorsey was born the son of a coal miner turned music teacher; his older brother of Tommy Dorsey also became a prominent musician. He played trumpet in his youth, appearing on stage with J. Carson McGee's King Trumpeters in 1913. He switched to alto saxophone in 1915, and then learned to double on clarinet. Jimmy Dorsey played on a clarinet outfitted with the Albert system of fingering, as opposed to the more common Boehm system used by most of his contemporaries including Benny Goodman and Artie Shaw.
With his brother Tommy playing trombone, he formed Dorsey's Novelty Six, one of the first jazz bands to broadcast. In 1924 he joined the California Ramblers (who were based in New York City). He did much freelance radio and recording work throughout the 1920s. The brothers also appeared as session musicians on many jazz recordings. He joined Ted Lewis's band in 1930, with whom he toured Europe.
After returning to the United States, he worked briefly with Rudy Vallee and several other bandleaders, in addition to the Dorsey Brothers Orchestra with Tommy. He appeared on at least seventy-five radio broadcasts (many with his brother). Tommy left the Dorsey Brothers Orchestra to form his own band in 1935 after a musical dispute with Jimmy. The Dorsey Brothers Orchestra became the Jimmy Dorsey Orchestra.
Jimmy Dorsey's first hit record was You Let Me Down in 1935. His early band was considered to be more jazz-oriented than his brother's, and recordings of some instrumental swing classics soon followed: Dorsey Stomp, Tap Dancer's Nightmare, and Dusk in Upper Sandusky. The band was featured on 73 of Bing Crosby's Kraft Music Hall radio shows from December 1935 to July 1937, and also backed Crosby on his commercial recordings in the same period.
Known as "JD", Jimmy Dorsey recorded and composed the jazz and pop standards I'm Glad There Is You (In This World of Ordinary People) and It's The Dreamer In Me. His other major recordings were Tailspin, John Silver, So Many Times, Amapola, Brazil (Aquarela do Brasil), Pennies from Heaven with Bing Crosby, Louis Armstrong, and Frances Langford, Grand Central Getaway, and So Rare. He played clarinet on the seminal jazz standards Singin' the Blues in 1927 and the original 1930 recording of Georgia on My Mind, both inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame.
Jimmy Dorsey had eleven number-one hits with his orchestra in the 1930s and the 1940s. In 1983, he was inducted into the Big Band and Jazz Hall of Fame. He is also a member of the American Jazz Hall of Fame.
Works for Winds
- Oodles of Noodles (arr. Balfoort) (1931/2013)
- Heritage Encyclopedia of Band Music. "Jimmy Dorsey." Accessed 21 January 2020
- Jimmy Dorsey, Wikipedia Accessed 21 January 2020